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What You Need To Know About Travelling After Brexit

Posted on December 11, 2020 Filed under Rules for Travelling After Brexit.

 What You Need To Know Re Travelling After Brexit (updated Jan 2021)

… Passports, Visas, Driving, & all that …

As you know the UK left the European Union at 11pm GMT on 31 December 2020. So now there are a few things which are changing with regards to travelling in Europe, with the exception of travel to Ireland where little will change.

For everywhere else in Europe, these are the most essential changes relating to travel.


You will likely have a burgundy coloured passport with “European Union” on the cover, but do not worry, this will continue to be valid as a UK travel document even if it loses it’s EU powers.

However the main issue is that from 1 January 2021, European rules on passport validity will become tougher as British travellers will now be treated the same as visitors from ‘third countries’ who must meet slightly stricter rules on passport validity.

On your day of travel to the EU (as well as non-members Andorra, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, San Marino, Switzerland and the Vatican City) your passport must pass two tests.

1. Was it issued less than nine years, six months ago?
2. Does it have 6 months’ validity remaining on it? (This is now definitely required).

The reason for these points is that until September 2018, the UK traditionally gave renewals up to 9 months extra validity on top of the normal 10 years. This was fine when the UK was part of the EU, but now passports issued by non-member countries are considered ‘expired’ once they have been valid for 10 years.

Example: You have a passport issued on 30 June 2011 and your passport expiry date shows 30 March 2022 (10 years plus the extra 9 months), your passport would actually only be valid with the EU until 30 June 2021, so if you decided to travel in January 2021, your passport would not be valid in the EU (as in you don’t have 6 months remaining on it according to the EU) and the airline would be obliged to turn you away.

Please note then that within the EU, the issue date on your passport is very important. Otherwise with regards to the UK and other non-EU countries around the world, the expiry date printed in the passport remains valid. 


For now visas will not be required to enter the EU, but possibly from 2022 or maybe later, British visitors are likely to need to register online and pay in advance for an “Etias“ permit under the European Travel Information and Authorisation System. We will update you more on that in due course. It could be that individual countries within the EU will decide their own rules with regards to this.

Border formalities

British travellers will no longer benefit from EU fast-track lanes for passport control, although countries that receive a large number of visitors from the UK, such as Portugal and Spain, may well make special arrangements.

The process is likely to be slower, and there will be deeper checks as required by EU law. So from January 2021, you may be asked the purpose of your visit, when you plan to travel and stay, how long you intend to remain in the EU and how you will be funding your stay.

Length of stay

From 1 January 2021, the “90/180 rule” comes into play. Whilst not really a problem for the majority of holidaymakers taking short breaks abroad, for those people, including business travellers who normally stay a long time in Europe, it does have some significant effect. You may stay only 90 days (about three months) in any 180 (six months).

Example: if you spend January, February and March in the EU – totalling 90 days – you must leave the Schengen zone before 1 April and cannot return until 30 June.

It must be remembered that this applies to the whole Schengen Area so you can’t just nip across the border to another European country to reset, and then come back again.

The UK government has however said: “Different rules will apply to Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania. If you visit these countries, visits to other EU countries will not count towards the 90-day total.”

There is no problem with length of stay for British citizens travelling to the Republic of Ireland. They can stay as long as they like.

Obviously those people who have a work or residential visa for a specific EU country, will be treated differently.

Driving in Europe:

You will need to take your Great Britain or Northern Ireland driving licence, your log book (V5C) and valid insurance documents if you take your own car to Europe. You will also need a 'Green Card' from your insurance company and may also need an International Driving Permit (IDP) although for the majority of European countries, it has now been confirmed (Jan 2021) that an International Driving Permit is NOT required.  See more on all this below:

Driving licences and International Driving Permit (IDP)

Your driving licence carries the EU symbol but again do not worry as just like passports, this will still be valid from 2021 until its expiry date. 

As it stands currently (Jan 2021) your normal UK driving licence 'card' is still accepted when driving in Portugal and most European countries. An International Driving Permit is not required for Portugal and not required for the majority of European countries.

Motor insurance

From 1 January 2021 you will need a “Green Card” – an official, multilingual translation of your car insurance that demonstrates you meet the minimum cover requirements for the country you're visiting.

Your Insurers will generally provide this free of charge, but they usually require some notice, at least 2 weeks.

Health Care - EHIC & GHIC cards

For more than 40 years, British travellers have benefited from free or very low-cost medical treatment in the EU. Initially the E111 and then The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) have proved very valuable for everyone, especially the elderly and/or people with pre-existing medical conditions.

Fortunately as of January 2021, the EHIC card is still valid in Portugal and many other European countries. Once your EHIC card has expired, then you can apply for a Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) which lets you get state healthcare in Europe at a reduced cost and sometimes for free.

Remember however that you should still take out TRAVEL INSURANCE when travelling, particularly if you have a pre-existing medical condition. The GHIC or EHIC is not an alternative to this as it will not cover any 'private' medical healthcares or costs, being repatriated/flown back to the UK, or any stolen or lost property, money or passports etc. However having the GHIC or EHIC is definitely a useful addition and can sometimes reduce an excess on a travel insurance policy.

Please note that it is FREE to get one of these cards, and you should apply through the UK government's website at


Limits on Goods being brought Back to the UK from the EU

During our time in the EU, there have been no limits on the value of goods you could bring in from European Union nations.  However from January 2021, the European Union will be treated the same as the rest of the world – which means that there are now limits on what you can bring back free of duty, albeit a fairly generous allowance for alcohol and tobacco. You have a 'personal' allowance which means you can bring in a certain amount of goods without paying tax or duty, but these must be for personal use or for gifts. 

As things could be revised at any time, do check the latest on the Government website before you travel and return to Great Britain at

Alcohol Limits:

Up to 18 litres of 'still' wine and 42 litres of beer.

You can also bring in either:

 - Up to 4 litres of spirits and other liquors over 22% alcohol
- Up to 9 litres of fortified wine (eg port or sherry), or sparkling wine, or alcoholic drinks up to 22% alcohol.

You can also combine this last allowance (so bringing in 2 litres of spirits and 4.5 litres of fortifed wine - eg half of each category)

: 200 duty-free cigarettes or 100 cigarillos, or 50 cigars, or 250g tobacco, 200 sticks of tobacco for electronic heated tobacco devices, or a proportional combination of the above.

If you exceed any of these limits, you will pay tax and duty on the whole lot.

Other Goods: There is a limit of about £390 – for all other goods like food, clothing etc.

However there will no longer be tax-free airport sales of goods like electronics and clothing.

Mobile phones

From 1 January 2021, the EU-wide ban on roaming charges for phone calls and internet use no longer applies to people with UK mobile phones. Providers will be free to impose whatever fees they wish.

However the 4 main providers – O2, 3, EE and Vodafone have all said they have no plans to reintroduce roaming charges after Brexit.  You should just check with your mobile provider to make sure this is true before you travel.

Should these or other providers introduce roaming charges, the government says it will cap the maximum for mobile data usage while abroad at £45 per month unless the user positively agrees to pay more. Also there will be requirements for customers to be informed when they’ve reached 80% and 100% of their data allowance.

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